By Abayomi Azikiwe

Workers and youth through their unions and mass organizations have been expressing profound discontent with the impact of the world capitalist crisis which has its origins in the western imperialist states. Although the escalating instability and threats of civil war have dominated the corporate media coverage of the African continent, the trade unions and student organizations are raising issues that involve the work place and educational institutions.


In the Central African Republic (CAR) where France has 2,000 troops occupying the mineral-rich state along with forces from several African Union member-states, peace and stability has eluded the country. Now France is supporting the intervention of another 2,000 troops from European Union (EU) governments along with an additional 12,000 so-called United Nations peacekeeping forces to ostensibly bring order to the country which is a former colony of Paris.


With the French escalation in the CAR the overall security situation has worsened. The new caretaker government of President Catherine Samba-Panza and Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke does not have full control of the CAR?s police and military forces. Widespread violence is being systematically leveled against the minority Muslim population many of whom have fled the capital of Bangui and other areas in the country.


Since the Muslim population only constitutes 15% of the people in the CAR, it raises the question as to whether the French and their allied states are actually there to bring peace and stability. Many within the Islamic community and a growing number of Christians are rapidly turning against France and its indefinite military presence.


During the week of March 10 students in the CAR went on strike demanding the payments of their tuition and housing grants. Prime Minister Nzapayeke met with the students but it did not calm their anger.


CAR students set fires and held demonstrations demanding the payment of the grants. The unrest among the students was covered extensively over TVC, the Lagos, Nigeria-based satellite news network that reports on events throughout the continent. (March 13-14)


Kenya Transport Workers and University Lecturers Strike


In the East African state of Kenya, a close ally of the United States, the country has been severely impacted by a nationwide transport workers? strike which took place on March 5. The buses and other forms of transport in the capital of Nairobi are privately owned and drivers are required to pay for parking costs from their earnings.


A rise in the price of fuel and parking costs has created a crisis for the drivers. They blocked traffic on the major streets and roads creating an intense traffic logjam.


In a report published on March 5 its states that ?Kenyan paramilitary police dispersed public-transport drivers who paralyzed traffic by blocking roads in the capital, Nairobi, in a protest against increased parking fees. Operators of buses, commuter vans, known as matatus, and taxi-cab drivers stopped traffic on some of Nairobi?s busiest streets including Thika highway, Jogoo Road and the central business district since early morning as motorists headed to work. (Bloomberg)


This same article continues illustrating that at ?Around noon, ground-level shops in the business district locked their doors as armed police carrying batons and shields chased protesters by foot and apprehended motorists and bus drivers as they tried to reclaim their parked vehicles.?


Later on March 14, thousands of college and universities lecturers walked off the jobs effectively closing higher education institutions across the country. Even though the government sought a court order to halt the strike, the lecturers and non-academic staff workers halted work anyway.


On March 17 it was reported that ?The Industrial Court in Nairobi has allowed university lecturers and non-academic staff to file their response stating why they are entitled to go on strike. The university teachers and workers appeared before Justice Monicah Mbaru after they boycotted last week?s session, which prompted the court to order that they be served through the media. The court had warned that it would give further orders against them if they failed to show up yesterday. The lecturers asked the court to allow them to file their reply within 14 days.? (Standard Digital, March 17)


Egypt State-run Fashion Company Hit by Strike, Protests


In the North African state of Egypt where a military-backed regime has held power since a coup on July 3, 2013, protests by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, students and other opponents of the government has resulted in thousands of deaths, injuries and arrests.


The ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood remains in detention while several scheduled hearings have been adjourned for various reasons. Recently there has been a spate of bomb attacks and the killings of several soldiers and police which the interim government has blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, an allegation the organization vehemently denies.


Strikes have been taking place in industrial sectors of the economy. The most recent is against the state-run Modern Fashion Company where workers are demanding back pay and accusing the bosses of attempting to privatize the establishment which has been in existence since 1951.


Ahram Online reported on March 16 that ?The company was nationalized in the early 1960s by former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser.? Ben-Zaion (the firm) currently operates under law 203 from 1991 as a subsidiary of the Holding Company for Tourism, Hotels and Cinema (HOTAC), which owns 100 percent of the company’s shares.?


This same article continues saying that ?Before 2008, Ben-Zaion was under the state?s Holding Company for Internal Trade.? Its 84 retail outlets specialize in goods and consumer durables such as textiles, household appliances, linens and furniture.?


South African Platinum Miners Face Intransigent Bosses


In the Republic of South Africa, which produces 90% of the world?s supply of platinum, workers under the leadership of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) have been on strike for nearly two months. The bosses are seeking to cripple the strike by refusing to negotiate in good faith with the union, which is a breakaway from the more-established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), an affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a close ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).


The strike has created hardships for workers in the North West Province. There are shortages of food and violence against people living in the communities has increased.


In a statement issued by COSATU on March 11 revealed the rivalry between the federation and the breakaway AMCU, which now has the majority of platinum workers in this region within its ranks. COSATU called upon AMCU and the bosses to reach an agreement to end the strike.


The statement said that ?The Congress of South African Trade Unions in the North West is inundated with calls from workers in the platinum mines who have been on strike for the past seven weeks. The workers, in particular those who are in the Impala area, are indicating that they want to go back to work but they fear for their safety, as there is a lot of violence in the area.?


COSATU goes on to observe ?As the federation we believe that the action taken by Impala management of putting all workers on special leave without payment is putting workers under economic challenges which they are facing today. We call on those workers to approach their employer and demand their work back as we prepare to engage the mine management on their request.?



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